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Same-Sex Couples Sue Florida Over Birth Certificate Discrimination

On August 13th, the first couple to be issued a same-sex marriage license in Florida filed suit against the state (specifically, the Bureau of Vital Statistics) after being denied the right to list both of their names on the birth certificate of their newborn twin babies.

Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, after having gone through a rigorous fertility process as a unified, married couple, and then going through the (rigorous) birth process itself, were then informed by the hospital records manager that both of their names could not be on the birth certificate—a degrading announcement to two excited new parents.

The decision to deny this couple the rights to be listed on their children’s birth certificates was not based on technicalities, such as a legal requirement to only list the biological parents of the children on a birth certificate. As Pareto pointed out, a married woman and man who use a sperm donor to conceive are not typically denied the right to have their names on a child’s birth certificate, even if the father is not the child’s biological parent.

Two other couples joined the lawsuit as well—Kari and Deborah Chin and Alma Vezquez and Yadira Arenas–all of whom have recently had children and faced the same discrimination issues. The claim itself is based on a refusal to issue accurate birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children.

Didn’t The Supreme Court Legalize Same-Sex Marriage?

In July, the Supreme Court of the United States made a strong ruling in favor of everyone’s right to marry, including same sex couples. By states placing roadblocks in the way of same sex couples, denying them equal rights pursuant to this decision, it creates issues for everyone, especially the children. It is crucial for both parents to be listed on a child’s birth certificate in order to ensure certain logistical necessities for a child, such as making medical decisions and obtaining health care coverage. It could even end up turning the child into an orphan if the one parent listed on the birth certificate passes away, forcing the other parent to go through an adoption process for their own child.

What Does Florida Law Specifically Say?

Florida statute states that a certificate for each live birth that occurs in this state shall be filed within five days after such birth with the local registrar of the district in which the birth occurred and shall be registered by the local registrar. Although the statute addresses paternity and discusses a “mother and father,” nowhere does it state that a male and female, specifically, must be listed on a child’s birth certificate. In fact, the statute indicates that where there is “undetermined parentage” (such as is the case, one could argue, with a sperm donor), “the person having custody… shall register a birth certificate showing all known or approximate facts relating to the birth,” indicating that both parents’ names should be on the birth certificate, regardless of gender.

Florida Family Law/LGBT Rights Attorney

Sandra Bonfiglio is proud to serve LGBT communities and is available to help couples with any aspect of family law issues and challenges. Contact our office online or call 954-828-9933 so that we can assist you.

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